The Muhammad cartoons controversy – the context


The cartoon crisis
The transgression of boundaries
'Making space'
The development of Muslim organization in Europe
Why muslims emigrate to Europe
Future changes in Europe


The recent protests over the Muhammad cartoons must be seen in the wider context of the enlargement of the Muslim presence in the West, enlargement in terms both of numbers and of political power. In terms of numbers, the ‘presence’ is not insignificant. There are 53 million Muslims in Europe as a whole, over 10 million in Western Europe excluding the UK, and probably more than one and a half million Muslims in the United Kingdom, making Muslims the largest religious minority in Britain.

As for the future, the Muslim population in Europe is being swelled by immigration and by a much higher birth rate than the native White populations. In this analysis however, we focus not on demographic trends, but on political ones, although we will refer briefly to international migration. But first, a brief resume of the events.

The cartoon crisis

We can trace this whole business back to last year when the Danish author K. Bluitgen tried to get someone to illustrate his book on the Qur’an and the prophet Muhammad’s life. This proved difficult. Three artists in fact declined, two at least for fear of reprisals from Muslims, one referring to the murder of the film director Theo van Gogh, and another artist declined citing the attack on a lecturer at an Institute in Copenhagen.

This started a debate in Denmark; then on 30th September one Danish newspaper printed 12 cartoons, including some of the prophet. Some of the cartoons were reprinted in an Egyptian newspaper in October, and between October and the end of January 2006, some or all of the cartoons were reprinted in some major European newspapers, then later, there were more re-publications in Europe and elsewhere. Over this period of time protests against the publication of the cartoons grew and spread widely across the globe.

Muslim leaders argued that it was blasphemous even to depict the prophet at all, and the publication of the cartoons showed at the very least crass insensitivity on a subject that is very important to Muslims. Defenders of publication argued that the publication of the cartoons was justified under the principle of free speech, which is very important in Western democracies, and in the wider context of representation of religious leaders, Muhammad was not being given different treatment to that of other leaders such as Jesus Christ.

Foreign ministries of Muslim countries demanded action from the Danish government, and several Arab countries eventually closed their embassies in Denmark in protest to the government initially refusing to intervene or apologise. Several death threats and rewards for murdering those responsible for the cartoons were issued, reportedly resulting in the cartoonists going into hiding. Some Danish Imans lobbied decision-makers in the Middle East, and a large consumer boycott was organized is some Middle East countries (Wikipedi Free Encyclopedia, Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, as at 31-3-06,

Protests across the world were often violent and led to attacks on, and the burning of some Western European embassies / consulates and other buildings, in various countries and even the deaths of some people. Yemeni lawyers called for a newspaper editor to be sentenced to death for showing some Muhammad cartoons. In February there were protest marches in London, one drawing thousands of people. There was no physical violence, apart from the burning of the Danish flag, but many people shouted inflammatory messages (for example “we adore Osama Bin Laden” and “bomb, bomb Denmark”) and or held up posters, some of which incited violence. Examples of what the posters said are: “Europe, your 9/11 will come”, “Democracy go to hell”, “Massacre those who insult Islam”, “Whoever insults a prophet kill him”, “Freedom of expression go to hell”, “free speech go to hell”, “behead the one who insults the prophet”.

The protests shook governments and newspaper editors in the West. “From Brussels to London to Washington, heads of state and top ministers groped for an elusive balance between mollifying Muslims outraged by irreverent caricatures of Islam's prophet and upholding the principles of free speech”
On the whole the reaction of governments and newspapers in the West was on the one hand to condemn the violence of the protests, but at the same time to consider the publication of the cartoons was at least unfortunate because it offended what they agreed were legitimate Muslim sensitivities.

What then most people in Western Europe initially thought was a trivial matter, turned out to be a significant political issue, locally, and over much of the globe. But the whole episode served in fact to enlarge the political power of Muslims in Europe, by securing a limitation on free speech and expression, on behalf of their religion, never achieved by the native Christian groups for their religion, and by making a wider audience aware of the latent power of Muslims in Europe. It is worth emphasizing that the protestors were not focusing on, and in general did not seem to care about, the need to respect the feelings of religious groups in general, but just followers of Muhammad.

We now consider further the political significance of the events in relation to Western institutions and practices.

The transgression of the boundaries

In the history of the development of European institutions, two basic separations have developed:
  • The separation of religion from politics.
  • The separation of the public and private spheres.

These separations may sometimes but not always, be formalized in law. For example, in France, there is a formal separation of churches from the state, making secularism a national principle. The state is barred from officially recognizing or funding religious groups, and there is a principle of non-interference of the government in the religious sphere. In contrast, in Great Britain, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland are ‘established’, formally recognized. The monarch promises to maintain the rights of the established churches. However, in practice, the church does not interfere with the working of the state although churchmen may influence it, for example through their representatives in the House of Lords. In practice Great Britain is a secular society, although this is now being challenged by the Muslim population. But in both France and Great Britain, everyone has the right of religious freedom.

Salvatore (2004) writes at length about these separations and how the situation is changing in Europe during recent and continuing expansion of Muslim communities there (Journal of ethnic and migration studies, henceforth JEMS, 30, 5: 1013-1031). He notes:
“ relation to the history of the European formulas for the separation of religion and politics, and private and public spheres. The intersection of these two codes of separation that were essential to the formation of nation-states is in the administrative delimitation of a religious field and its subjection to state monitoring”. In this context, religion is the ‘moral engine’ of the private sphere, and religious personnel become the ‘moral prefects of the nation’. It is presupposed that religious authorities accept the boundaries between public and private spheres. At the same time religion has had a limited place in the public space through a range of Church ‘community’ activities.

However, the activities of Muslims in Europe is seen by some as enlarging the position of religion in the public sphere beyond the traditional limits. Thus Salvatore writes of Muslim “vocal activism, particularly that of Muslim women and youth, as instances of a struggle to transform and enrich, and even to decentre, European public spheres” (our italics).

Focusing more narrowly on the wearing of a veil Salvatore writes p.1018 “the iconic power of the veil relates to the fact that the secularly trained eye perceives the way it crosses, whether intentionally or not, the well-entrenched border between private and public spheres as the epitome of the essential threat of Islam in Europe”. Indeed many see it as a “tool of proselytizing or at the very least as a symbolic colonization of the public space, which is supposed to be free of religion”.

He notes how the veil has become a preoccupation in scholarly and journalistic accounts of developments in Europe and this can be interpreted as a perception that this “symbol contaminates the secular sacrality of public space”. “Indeed, the veil is a figurative ‘fist in the eye’ of the average citizen, the state administrator, as well the journalist and scholar”.

R. Grillo (2004, JEMS 30, 5: 861-878) in his paper on Muslim communities in Europe and their relationship with others also writes of the separation of the public and private spheres. In relation to the development in Europe of an Islamic identity and work by J. Cesari:
“There was a refusal to restrict Islam to the private sphere; a collective, public affirmation of an Islamic identity” (our bold text).

‘Making Space’

Grillo (ibid) writes that  “a key motif of Islam in Europe in the 1980s identified by anthropologists and others was encapsulated in Joly’s phrase 'making a place'.… Muslims sought room, figuratively and literally, for the practice of Islam and Islamic practices, seeking to extend the boundary of recognition through ‘test cases’…”.

He notes there was a “shift in the scale and scope of interventions by Muslims” as claims for Islamic recognition became more pressing and wide spread. In Britain he traces the sequence of events from the provision of halal meat in the early 1980s, through the debates on multicultural education, for example in Bradford in the mid -1980s (where, we note, the focus was on the controversy surrounding the work of Ray Honeyford), the Rushdie affair in the late 1980s and 1990s, the publication of the Muslim Manifesto in 1990 and the first Gulf War of the early 1990s. Grillo notes that similar shifts occurred in France, and claims that the headscarves affair there and the Rushdie affair in Britain were the ‘turning point’ “iconic of a more thrusting Islam”.

It seems to us that the recent controversy over the Muhammad cartoons constitute another ‘test case’. Muslims are effectively trying to force a greater political recognition of Islam in the West.

The development of Muslim organization in Europe

We must view these developments in terms of the history of the recent Muslim colonization of Europe. Here we see a degree of unification of diverse Muslim groups over time, under the banner of Islam. Henkel (2004) writes about this in the case of Germany (JEMS 30, 5: 961-977), but the processes of which he writes seem to have been replicated to a varying extent in other West European countries.

Henkel describes how W. Schiffauer has divided the history of Turkish Islam in Germany into two phases. The first phase from the early 1970s to the early 1980s was characterized by Turkish Muslims, coming to work in Germany, forming local groups for providing basic services such as prayer rooms and Islamic instruction. But “bitter disputes subsequently erupted over the political/religious affiliation of the groups and their mosques”. But gradually these groups consolidated into larger groups (cemaats) each of which consolidated its hold on certain mosque associations.

In the second phase, new mosque associations ceased to be formed by local groups with heterogeneous affiliations, but were formed by these larger cemaats. “This process, in effect, made Turkish Islam in Germany an extension of the discursive and institutional structure of Islam in Turkey” (our bold text).

However, Henkel thinks that two new developments make it possible to speak of a third historical phase. First, Increasing numbers of Muslims have become German citizens, and some court rulings and government decisions have begun the process of the recognition of “the presence of Muslims as a relevant religious community in Germany”.

Second, Henkel claims that amongst religious Muslims there has been a “widespread embracing of a liberal attitude with regard to society and the state”, the adoption of  “a significantly more favourable view of Europe…”. But at the same time this change has also included “a renewed emphasis on the transnational character of Islam” (our bold text).

The developments just described, while suggesting a degree of accommodation of Muslims living in the West to western attitudes and values, also suggest to us there has been a growing sense of the importance to these people of a distinct global Muslim identity. And the widespread anger felt by many, perhaps the majority of Muslims in Europe over the Muhammad cartoons, has, we think, served to strengthen this sense of Muslim identity.

The development of Muslim organisation in West European countries and the strengthening of Muslim organisation links between these countries and Muslim countries, amounts to the development of a network of Muslim organisation and influence embracing West European and Muslim countries. This facilitates Muslim countries directly affecting affairs in West Europe.

For example, in the Netherlands “The Moroccan and Turkish governments exercise substantial control over religious matters in the Netherlands through an official Turkish organization and a network of Moroccan social organizations (US State Dept., 2004). The relations with the state were insufficient to deal with the issues of the Muslim community. Since the Van Gogh murder, there has been an attempt to remedy this with the creation of a union of Dutch Imams to negotiate important issues with the state. Two new organizations were recently recognized by the state, CGI (Contact Groep Islam), which represents some 115,000 Muslims, and CMO (Contactorgaan Moslems en de Overheid), which already represents 500,000 Muslims and is attempting to represent the entire population in the Netherlands"
( ).

Organisational networks also facilitate emigration of Muslims to Western Europe. For example, I. Sirkeci (2005, International Migration, 43, 4:197-213) writes about the relationships between conflict and international migration as far as Iraq is concerned:
Ethnic conflict, (which we note seems to be on the increase at present in Iraq), creates an “environment of insecurity” which encourages those who are already considering emigrating to do so. And Sirkeci concludes: “During periods of conflict, Iraqis have established migration networks, and formed significantly sized immigrant communities in the West. It is these networks which will also serve as facilitating factors for the potential ethnic migration of some Iraqis”.

Finally, we think that many, perhaps most people in Europe are unaware of the large number of Muslim organizations there are in Europe, and the extent that they are interconnected. If we consider only the UK, these organisations range in size from big national organizations, like the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, down to small local groups. The Muslim Council of Britain, another national body, has affiliated to it over 400 UK organisations, the vast majority of which are Islamic! The UK Islamic Mission, British Muslims Web Portal, another national organisation, has well over 40 branches and Islamic centres across the United Kingdom. Then there is an Association of Muslim schools, and an association of Muslim lawyers, and the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought. There are well over 600 mosques in Britain, which offer educational and welfare services to the Muslim communities. But a few at least have been involved with extremist Muslim groups. There are 700 or more Madrasas in England mostly attached to local mosques or Islamic institutions (BBC News, 22-3-06) (Madrasas are religious schools, where, in England, many young people receive instruction on Islam in the evenings after formal school).

Why Muslims emigrate to Europe

The Muslim presence in Europe, demographically speaking, is enlarging through high birthrates of Muslim populations there and by continued immigration. It is worthwhile at this point to consider the reasons why Muslims emigrate to the West.

The reasons why Muslims emigrate to Europe are varied, as with other emigrant groups. Some emigrants are refugees, fleeing from internecine conflict or famine. Some are attracted by the greater stability and standard of living in Western countries, or the greater opportunity to develop businesses, or the better chances of getting a good education for their children. So there is a combination of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors at play. We think the majority, perhaps the vast majority of Muslims emigrate for these reasons.

However, it also seems that some Muslims migrate at least partly, because they wish to bring about basic changes in the way of life and government of host countries, and change these countries into Islamic states. Their activities are facilitated by that very freedom of expression, which the cartoon crisis shows some Muslims seek to limit in the same host countries. We do not wish to exaggerate the significance of this migration flow. A basic problem however is that it is very difficult to assess its magnitude.

And as far as Turkey is considered, there has been another reason for emigration, which is given by H. Henkel (2004, JEMS 30, 5: 961-977). Henkel made a case study around one recent migrant to Germany from Turkey, Yasemin. Yasemin’s parents emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. They did so primarily to better themselves economically. But they were committed to an eventual return to Turkey. Then, when Yasemin was six, the family moved back to Turkey, where the modest wealth they had accumulated in Germany allowed them to purchase a plot of land and build a spacious house. In Turkey, during her adolescence, “Yasemin rediscovered a strict practice of Islam”. She become connected with a group, a cemaat, strongly committed to Shariah (Islamic law – this applies to law in the strictly legal sense and also details of ritual and customs). When she returned to Germany in 1998 to marry her husband she retained her affiliation with this organization. Her husband, Ahmet, is of Turkish descent, but grew up in Berlin and now has a low-tier administrative post in the municipal government.

Henkel asked Yasemin why she left Turkey and returned to Germany? Yasemin replied that life was simply better in Germany than in Turkey. Henkel writes that he began to understand Yasemin’s answer better later, when he recalled a conversation he had had in Istanbul with a cousin of hers named Hakan, who belongs to the same Muslim brotherhood as Yasemin.

Hakan had told Henkel that many of his friends were either considering emigrating or had already done so, but he reproached them for this attitude. Why? Was it because he felt that abroad they faced the “threat of conversion or relaxation of their religious commitment”? No. For as Hakan said , where his friends had settled or proposed to settle - Australia, North America and Europe - they could practice Islam at least as freely, often more freely, than in Turkey! He reproached them “for leaving behind the struggle of Muslims in Turkey rather than for leaving behind Islam”.

Hakan enlarged on this view about religious toleration in the West and Australia. The state in these countries guarantees religious freedom for every person. In Turkey, a country with a predominantly Muslim population women are forbidden to wear the Islamic headscarf in public places, most noticeably in government institutions and schools. Hakan himself, while he would like to stay in Turkey to make it a better place, “contemplates the day when he might move to Europe or the US so that his daughter will be able to wear her headscarf to school”! So we have the ironic situation where in a Muslim country, there are stricter restrictions on dress than in some West European countries, although as regards headscarves, the situation has recently been changing in Europe.

Future changes in Europe

1). Some important concepts

In terms of the size of the Muslim presence in Europe, we can confidently say that through continued immigration, and the relatively high fertility of Muslim ethnic groups, the size of the Muslim population, and its proportion of the total human population, will continue to increase. What of the political influence of Muslims? One way to approach this, we suggest, is to consider the meaning of three concepts from within the Muslim tradition; for what happens will to a large extent depend on how Muslims interpret these concepts and the importance they assign to them. These concepts are: Umma, Islamism and Jihad.
We now look at the meaning of these terms and the way that their interpretation will influence the direction of future change in Europe.

“Umma… is an Arabic word meaning community or nation. In the context of Islam, the word umma (often spelled ummah) is used to mean the community of the believers (ummat al-mu’minin), and thus the whole Islamic world” (Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: This term has been a central theological concept, crucial to the Muslim understanding of unity. It may we think be regarded in a general way as the equivalent of the church in Christianity although unlike the church it is not embodied in an institution.

Lubeck and Britts (2002, in Eade and Mele (eds) “The city. Contemporary and future perspectives”, Blackwell) puts it this way:
“Islamism or political Islam is a modern, male-dominated political movement seeking to reinstitutionalize its conception of Islamic laws (Sharia), institutions (zakat or tithe), and other imagined practices of the first Muslim communities living under the authority of the Prophet and the four successor Caliphs…”. And Islamist groups are western-educated and highly urbanised.

The Encyclopedia of the Orient ( agrees about the urban concentration, writing that the most prominent Islamists are young people with higher education. It claims there are “four central motifs in Islamism”. The first is a strong concern about social differences between the rich and the poor in the world, including inside Muslim communities, and “responsibility for the poor and the needing is central to Islam...”. Second, cultural problems. “Islamists feel that they are losing their culture, that Western clothes, values, social patterns, political structures, language and identify are replacing what there once was”.

Third. Islamists think that there was in history a Golden Age where Islam was strict and conservative, and was the superior military and cultural force. Islamists believe they should work for a political system that embodies essential features of the Golden Age, while not rejecting modern technology as a tool. However, the encyclopedia claims that “the Islamist idea of the Golden Age is a dramatic falsification of History”. Muslims then were pragmatic, willing to borrow solutions from other cultures. “Except from the Islamists fascination of modern technology, they have almost only negative attitudes towards culture and values outside the Muslim world”. Fourth (and we do not think this is really a distinct motif, but rather a reflection of what has been happening in recent times): Islam is a political alternative. “Islamism has been implemented as a real political alternative in modern times”. The encyclopedia enlarges on this but reaches the conclusion that Islamism has generally not yielded the promised results.

Finally, Malise Ruthven (1997, “Islam. A very short introduction”, Oxford) writes:
“Islamism: the Latin suffix attached to the Arabic original …expresses the relationship between the pre-existing reality (in this case a religion) and it translation into a political ideology, just as communism ideologizes the reality of the commune, socialism the social, and fascism the ancient symbol of Roman consular authority”.

“Jihad is an Arabic word that means ‘striving in the way of God’. This striving can take a number of forms, including the daily inner struggle to be a better person. However, jihad is often used to refer to an armed struggle fought in defense of Islam”.

Now the concepts just discussed clearly have the potential to provoke or sustain a determined attempt by Muslims to subvert Western countries and bring them under the domination of Islam, politically, ethically and religiously. We enlarge on this assertion now.

Consider Ummah.
Grillo (ibid) explains the current and perhaps growing significance of Umma for Muslim peoples. “This ideal of a transnational Muslim community has always had great appeal, perhaps more so now than ever” (our italics). “The imagined umma (Roy 1996) is referenced constantly across the globe in (Islamic) newspapers, books, TV stations, mosque sermons, manifestos, Koranic lessons, and the Internet…”.

R.W.Maqsood (2003, “Teach yourself Islam”) writes: “Non-Muslims often cannot understand why Muslims in one part of the world get so worked up over what they regard as injustices done to Muslims in other parts of the world; they do not understand the deep feelings of ummah Muslims have for each other, or the duty of support they feel towards each other. Muslims feel passionately about injustices done to other Muslims thousands of miles away”.

Now the whole sorry story of the invasion of Iraq, in our view a very questionable venture, and the following ineptly pursued programme of democratisation, with concommitant loss of life, has hardened the attitude of many Muslims against the West, Muslims who hold dear the concept of Ummah, and we can understand this. Then again, what many Muslims in European states regard as the injustices they have experienced there by virtue of their ethnicity or Muslim faith, real or imagined (and we do not doubt some are real injustices) has the potential to fuel any movement to convert Europe to Islam.

Consider Islamism.
We have already noted that Islamism is a political project. We now note further what Lubeck and Britts (ibid) wrote: “Our central argument is that Islamism is a modern urban movement empowered by a profound discursive shift involving virtually all social classes, genders, and status groups… the energy driving Islamism is concentrated among educated urban youth caught in the miasmic web of multiple postcolonial crises”. “Islamism creates a diverse network of civil society groups delivering goods and services...” “...this change constitutes a truly global discursive shift in popular consciousness from a secular nationalist to an Islamic narrative… it simultaneously envisions itself as a force for the revival of global Islamic unity, a movement to reform the territorially defined national state, a global insurrectionary movement, and a creator of a moral economy in urban neighbourhoods” (our italics).

Consider Jihad.
Ruthven (ibid) distinguishes Jihad, which he describes as “a collective obligation of Muslims”, from personal obligations such as prayer and pilgrimage. Further, it may be undertaken by a ruler on behalf of the community, so eventually it may become an instrument of policy. He writes about the classical doctrine of Jihad as it applied during the centuries of Islamic expansion:
“…the world is divided into two mutually hostile camps: the sphere of Islam (dar-al-islam) and the sphere of War (dar al-harb). Enemies will convert, like the polytheists, or submit, like the Christians and Jews”.

“According to a well-known hadith (hadiths are “… discrete anecdotes about the Prophet’s sayings and actions, originally passed down orally and later turned into written texts”) the Prophet distinguished between the ‘lesser’ jihad of war against the polytheists and the ‘greater’ jihad against evil…historically, it was the ‘greater’ jihad which sustained the expansion of Islam in many parts of the world.The dualism of good versus evil, dar al-islam against dar al-harb, was maintained less by territorial concepts than by legal observance. Dar al-islam was where the law prevailed”.
Later Ruthven goes on: “The strife against evil, the ‘greater jihad’, might take a purely moralistic form; but at times of increasingly traumatic historical crisis, the ‘lesser jihad’ came to the fore. The two jihads were interchangeable”.

We think it is reasonable to consider that the present times, in both the Middle –East with its conflicts, and the Western World where Muslims are struggling to find their own identity, and in some other regions, are indeed “times of increasingly traumatic historical crisis” so the lesser jihad may (may have) come to the fore. And we also note what the Encyclopaedia of the Orient (ibid) currently says :
“Jihad has two possible definitions: the greater, which is the spiritual struggle of each man, against vice, passion and ignorance. This understanding of jihad has been presented by apologetics of modern times, but is an understanding of the term rarely used by Muslims themselves. The lesser jihad is simplified to cover holy war against infidels and infidel countries, aiming at spreading Islam. This kind of jihad is described in both the Koran and in the hadiths”.

2). Accession of Turkey to the European Union

We have said nothing so far about the accession of Turkey to the European Union (EU). If this takes place, this will add well over 70 million people to the EU, the vast majority Muslims (mainly Sunni Muslims). It is therefore important to form some idea of the position of Islam and other religions in Turkey.

The following brief account on the position of religions and religious freedom in Turkey is based on a report by the U.S. Government’s Department of State (reference at the end).

Turkey is officially a secular state, the constitution recognizing freedom of religion. However, the government is strongly opposed to fundamentalist Muslim groups, and we mentioned earlier the ban on Muslim religious dress in government facilities. Jews and Christians do generally freely practice their religion and generally experience little discrimination in their daily life.

However Christians and other minority religious groups do face significant restrictions on their activities. Over the years religious minorities have had many properties expropriated and have found it difficult to get them back in more recent times. Religious communities, apart from Sunni Muslims, may not legally train new clergy in the country for leadership, and in general non-citizens may not become religious community leaders. Proselytizing by minority religions is socially unacceptable and sometimes dangerous and anti-Christian messages are common in newspapers and on television. It is claimed that religious minorities are in effect blocked from careers in state institutions. There have been some incidents of violent opposition to minority groups in recent years.

Religious and moral instruction is, under the constitution, compulsory in schools, religious minorities exempted - although they may find it difficult in practice to obtain exemption. The Government claims the religion courses cover the range of world religions, but critics say the courses are biased towards Sunni Islamic doctrine. The government regulates the operation of mosques and employs the local and provincial imams who are civil servants. Religious minorities may operate schools but must appoint a Muslim as deputy principal (report of the U.S. Department of State

Now Turkey, like present EU member states, is opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. However, if this U.S. Department of State report correctly assesses the situation in Turkey, we can see that the position of religions and religious groups in Turkey differs in important respects from the situation in Europe. Now it is probable that there will be some convergence between Turkey and present EU member states in this respect before Turkey does finally becomes a member of the EU, if indeed it does become a member. Nevertheless, the position of religions in Turkey is likely to remain significantly different from that in present EU member states. In this connection we note that the above report says “according to the general perception, Turkish identity is based on the Turkish language and the Islamic faith”. Recall too the basic fact that the vast majority of people in Turkey are Muslims. So the entry of Turkey into the EU is likely, we think, to accelerate the development of Islamic political power in Europe.


What then the future of Europe? In our view, there has been a collapse of moral values since the Second World War. Personal gain, the demand for luxury and the insistence on personal liberty now dominate the stage. A sense of responsibility at work has been eroded. As far as our country, Britain is concerned, there is a denial of the importance of our own British heritage for society, a heritage that overlaps with our rich European heritage. And in our opinion, the British and European heritages are together the rock on which our society has been built over a very long period of time.
We note what the Oxford historian H.A.L. Fisher (1936) wrote in his “A History of Europe” (Edward Arnold ): “We Europeans are the children of Hellas. Our civilization, which has its roots in the brilliant city life of the eastern Aegean, has never lost traces of its origin, and stamps us with a character by which we are distinguished from the other great civilizations of the human family…”. But Fisher goes on to say that Christianity was the religion which most influenced the development of our culture from its Hellenic origins. At the same time, he notes that it is to the Jews that Europe owes the Old Testament, “which has entered more deeply perhaps than any other book into the lives of the western peoples”.

It is interesting that some modern commentators are dismissive of the significance of what we regard as a common European heritage. Thus we find Salvatore (ibid) writing in connection with the movement of Muslims into public space in Europe and Muslim converts of European origin:
“Such a consideration of Muslims along with other religious groups and socio-religious movements in Europe can help to dissolve the residual myth, further propagated by many secularly minded European politicians in contemporary debates on the ‘culture of Europe’, that there is a Judaeo-Christian civilisation or even a ‘tradition’ underlying the identity of Europe, a civilisation basically synonymous with the West and therefore neatly distinct from Muslim culture”.

We disagree with this view. It is not a ‘residual myth’. There is, we think, a tradition underlying the identity of Europe. The civilization is at least largely synonymous with the West, and it is neatly distinct from Muslim culture. What is more, we suspect that many deeply religious Muslims would agree with us!

At the same time that the importance of our heritages are denied, multiculturalism is promoted, with no sense of the need to take heed to the wishes of the native peoples, who, we believe, have never and will never support the doctrine of multiculturalism. Through the pursuit of this doctrine and in other ways, Muslims are positively being assisted to take over Europe. In Britain, none of the three major political parties seem concerned about the danger of a take-over. The Conservatives might have taken action on this front, but now David Cameron seems to be pushing the Conservatives away from any idea that the wishes of the peoples of native British stock on matters of immigration and multiculturalism should come first.

Many people of native British descent may well share the sense of foreboding of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, envoy of Emperor Ferdinand 1 of Christendom to the Sultan of the Ottoman Turks back in the 16th century (Turkish letters, in D.Weinstein, ed., “The Renaissance and the Reformation 1300-1600”, The Free Press, New York).

de Busbecq formed a positive impression of Ottoman society. He was very impressed with the sense of quiet discipline in the Sultan’s court. He was also impressed by the whole system of appointments and promotion in the state which, he wrote, in contrast to the situation in Christendom, depended entirely on the merit of the persons concerned, not at all on wealth or status (having written at some length about this he concludes “among the Turks, therefore, honours, high posts, and judgeships are the rewards of great ability and good service. If a man be dishonest, or lazy, or careless, he remains at the bottom of the ladder, an object of contempt; for such qualities there are no honours in Turkey!”). And he was impressed by the efficient way the Sultan’s army was organised and provisioned, and the attitude of the soldiers (“the patience, self-denial, and thrift of the Turkish soldier”) when the Sultan went to war.

He compared the situation in Christendom where people were in bondage “to our own vices – luxury, intemperance, sloth, lust, pride, ambition, avarice, hatred, envy, malice...our souls are so weighed down and buried, that they cannot look up to heaven, or entertain one glorious thought, or contemplate one noble deed”. He writes of our common faith no longer being a governing force and “self-interest, which is the first thing men think of nowadays…”. One can well imagine that this is what many Muslims in Britain and other European countries think of us Westerners today, with some real justification in our view. And he contrasted Western soldiers with those of the Sultan. Christian soldiers put their own comfort above that of army duties and “Christian soldiers on a campaign refuse to put up with their ordinary food, and call for thrushes, beccaficos, and such like dainty dishes! If these are not supplied, they grow mutinous…”.

de Busbecq had the sense of foreboding that in any future armed struggle between the Ottoman Empire and European forces - which he seems to have thought was likely – the Turks would easily win. Today, it may seem unlikely that the conquest of Europe by agents of Islam will be achieved by force of arms, rather, it may seem likely to happen without open warfare, and be successful because a majority of Muslims have a strong sense of moral purpose, and European leaders will take no adequate steps to try to prevent the achievement of the conquest which is already taking place.

However, there are serious tensions related to the Muslim presence in many European cities. Continued net immigration of Muslims into already crowded countries, which may be aggravated by increased adverse effects of climate change in the developing world, and any economic down- turn in Europe, could lead to widespread outbreak of violence, and the ‘rivers of blood’ foreboding of Enoch Powell in Britain back in the 1960s could still become a reality.


John F. Barker, April 2006.